February 26, 2024

Classics scholar slams transhumanism in new book

The stakes of how we respond to transhumanism are immeasurably high, says Susan Levin

Books about transhumanism seem to fall into two categories: glowing with enthusiasm and glowering with indignation. Posthuman Bliss? The Failed Promise of Transhumanism, by Susan B. Levin, an expert in classical philosophy at Smith College falls into the latter camp.

Advocates of transhumanism are on a quest to raise human IQ so high that beings with these higher cognitive capacities would exist on a higher ontological plane. Some even believe that humanity's self-transcendence through advancements in science and technology may even be morally required. Consequently, Levin believes, the stakes of how we respond to transhumanism are immeasurably high.

She argues that transhumanism will undercut liberal democracy, promote eugenics, and undermine personal autonomy – claims which are warmly disputed by transhumanists.

Transhumanism is legitimately critiqued for proponents’ insistence that nothing short of humanity’s self-transcendence is a rational aim … In liberal democracy, fostering public health and welfare without jeopardizing the pillar of personal liberty requires ongoing navigation and reflection.

If we took our marching orders from transhumanists, and were able to produce humanity’s “godlike” successors, the question of how to foster overall welfare without devitalizing autonomy would be moot. For posthumanity would have supplanted us, the very beings for whom this matter is of urgent concern.

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge

Creative commons